Data Recovery Service – 5 Things an Expert Knows

There is a lot to think about when you need to have a data recovery service completed. Below I discuss 5 of the most important: Technician experience, shop reviews, turnaround time, recovery cost, and finally, scams to watch out for.

Technician Experience

Arguably the most important element of a successful data recovery service is the experience level of the technician completing the recovery. Do you know that auto repair shop that is run by an old guy who knows what is wrong with your car when you tell him the make, model, and the sound it is making? That kind of experience is invaluable, especially when it comes to Data Recovery.

Many things in life you can master with the general 10,000-hour rule of thumb. Once you have 10,000 hours under your belt you are a master, but to be an experienced Data Recovery technician you have to work in an environment where you see projects through to the end, receive feedback from the client on the results, are accountable for those results and have to complete any additional work necessary to obtain the desired results, and do that over and over again for literally 1000’s of recoveries.

Some types of data recovery take more experience than others. Most technicians can run imaging rigs on a mostly good drive that has a few bad sectors, but only experienced techs will get all the data possible off a drive with a weak head before completing a head swap. Deleted file recovery is usually a pretty straightforward process, but in some cases, the experience of the tech will make the difference between getting back the data you need, and getting back mountains of unusable junk files.

A lot of computer repair shops advertise that they also offer a data recovery service. Some of these shops do really good work, and others try dangerous procedures like opening the drive outside a cleanroom, “freezing” the drive, running recovery software before imaging the drive, and more. Again, not all computer repair shops are bad at data recovery, but it is rare to find one that has the experience, expertise, and tools to match a data recovery shop. We have received many drives deemed “unrecoverable” by computer repair shops and we are able to get all the data off. We have also received drives that were deemed unrecoverable that were damaged by the computer repair shop and now are truly unrecoverable.

Data recovery is one of those industries where if you don’t get it right the first time, the chance of anyone getting it right goes down (sometimes significantly). So picking a recovery shop that has skilled technicians is crucial. Opening a drive that has already been opened and finding fingerprints on the platters is a really frustrating feeling for an experienced recovery technician, and it happens a lot.

Technician experience can be hard to gauge from outside a company as oftentimes you don’t even know who will be working on your drive when they start the recovery process. Some of the larger data recovery companies list experience as a cumulative total of all the technicians working at their company, or highlight the technician with the most experience. But you don’t want your drive worked on by a technician that has 1 year and 300 drives under their belt, so consider requesting the project be worked on by one of the more experienced technicians at the shop.

Data Recovery Service Reviews

I remember the first time I realized how frequently fake testimonials are posted on websites. Someone came into the data recovery shop I was working at and wanted to make a pricing deal if they sent all the recoveries their lead-generating websites created to us. I took a look at the websites and they all had glowing testimonials for their data recovery service, and they hadn’t received a single drive yet!

This experience made me realize that all reviews need to be taken with a grain of salt. Between competitors posting negative reviews and owners posting positive, it is best to read through reviews on websites like Google Maps, Facebook, and Yelp to get a better picture of the company. I also recommend doing a search like “Company ABC Reviews” on your favorite search engine to see if anyone has posted negative reviews on websites like the BBB, Ripoff Report, or similar.

Fake reviews are rampant on marketplaces like Amazon, but after reading a few reviews you can usually get a sense of which ones are real and which ones are fake. Facebook is a great place to check reviews as they are left by people who will likely have profiles with a long history, etc. You can also click on the profile of the reviewer on Google Maps to see if the person reviews normal experiences like food places, etc.

In conclusion, take online reviews with a grain of salt and look for multiple review sites having good reviews while searching for a good data recovery service.

Project Turnaround Time

Be sure to consider how soon you need your data back when looking for a shop to complete your data recovery service. Most Data Recovery shops have a standard turnaround time and a rush service available if you need your data ASAP. Some shops have a standard turnaround time that is faster than other shops’ rush service, so be sure to consider that when looking at different shops.

Some recovery shops charge a large sum (double or triple their regular rate) to get the data back as quickly as possible. Other shops only charge a smaller upfront fee to move the drive to the front of the line and complete the work as quickly as possible.

If getting your data back quickly is important, be sure to ask right away about turnaround times and rush fees so you get a better idea of the options you have when you get your quotes.

Data Recovery Cost

The cost of a data recovery service can vary quite a bit depending on the issue with the drive. Sometimes the issue is something more simple like a deleted file recovery, or a drive that has some bad sectors but is overall in good shape. Then there are others that will require internal parts replacement and the price can get quite high. Below you can see the basic “reasonable” range of different types of issues. Note these are prices I think are in a reasonable range, but there are special cases where it would be reasonable to charge more than these prices:

  • $79-300 Deleted Data or Formatted Drive Recovery
  • $200-600 Logical Drive Issues or Issues with PCB
  • $500-1200 Head Replacement or Other Internal Parts Replacement
  • RAID setups are usually charged on a per-drive basis. So if you have a 5 drive RAID, it will usually be $1000-$6000 to get the data back.

There was an iPhone I received from a client who had been on a big vacation with his young son. It was a camping trip that included fishing, hiking, campfires, etc. The iPhone had gotten left outside and the rain that came through that night damaged it to a point where it would not start back up. It stopped working on the last day of their vacation and all the pictures from the trip were on the phone.

The client mentioned he was a teacher and still had a month off before school started again, so there was no rush to get the data. I jokingly said that maybe he should just do another trip and take more pictures because the price of the recovery would be more than the cost of another camping trip. He laughed, then thought for a second and said, “you know, you are right! I would get double the memories and new pictures as well that way”.

There are some recovery scenarios where the cost does not matter and all that matters is getting the data back. Other times the data that is needed might be something that you can recreate, so be sure to think about the value of the data being recovered when considering data recovery.

Pricing Scams In The Data Recovery Industry

If you know some of the scams to watch out for, it may help you steer clear of the less than honest companies out there.

Bait and switch pricing

Be sure to look through the data recovery company’s reviews to see if they make a habit of saying the drive will likely be low cost when you contact them with the specifics of your drive, then quote a high rate after receiving the drive. This behavior is, unfortunately, more common in the data recovery industry. There are valid reasons for the quote to increase after the drive is inspected, but the agent you interact with should make that clear before you have sent in your drive.

Diagnosis letters written in tech jargon

If you get what feels like a form letter explaining why your drive needs a higher-priced data recovery service, find another recovery company that is willing to look over the letter and let you know if it seems legitimate. I have seen these diagnosis letters with laughable combinations of issues, but only if you know data recovery will you know they are completely unreasonable.  But also note, if the second opinion company says, “This is completely fake, send it to me quickly”, it might not have been the best second opinion place to contact.

“Local Lab” that is a drop-off point only

Be wary of places that have “local data recovery location” for your area, but are actually just operating a drop-off location that then ships your drive out for recovery. If they make it clear it is just a drop-off location that is fine, but if they start customer relationships with deception (saying they are local when they are not), I wouldn’t recommend going with them. This point is underpricing because if a company is paying for multiple drop-off locations across the nation, you can expect the pricing to be inflated to help pay for those drop-off locations.

“Act quickly before it is too late”

If a company inspects the drive and lets you know they can get the data, but time is of the essence, and if you don’t move forward swiftly, the chance of recovering the data goes down significantly, that is not true (in almost all cases). This is a classic scam in the industry, allowing the company to charge a higher price without allowing you to get a second opinion. Basically, scaring you into saying yes fast without researching anything.

Second opinion sabatoge

A few times in the past I have seen cases of drive sabotage when the customer has taken a drive back saying they are going to get a second opinion. Basically, there are pieces of the firmware you can backup, then write wrong code to that will make the drive act like it has bad heads or some other bad issue. The recovery will not be successful unless the missing firmware is put back on the drive, thus locking you into using the first recovery place you went to. This is a rare occurrence, but I have seen it. I recommend to be on the safe side saying that your situation changed and you need to wait for recovery or another reason, instead of saying “I am going to get a second opinion”.

Fake information online

Having multiple websites for a single data recovery company is perfectly fine and normal. What is not normal is having fake reviews, fake company information, and other fake data on multiple sites in order to get as many leads as possible. If you feel you are being misled in any way during the initial process, do not continue with that company. Find a company that is real and authentic throughout the entire process.

Summing It All Up

I know this is a lot of information to digest and it is normal to feel overwhelmed when you are looking to have a data recovery service completed that you have never needed before. Just take a deep breath and remember the most important thing; you should feel comfortable with the people you are sending your drive into. If you feel like you are being talked down to, scared into doing something, or misled in any way, keep looking for another recovery company. There are plenty to choose from!

Try to gauge the experience of the technician that will be working on your drive, check the reviews of the company on sites like Google and Facebook, keep in mind how quickly you need your data back (some can wait a long time, others need it back right away), ask for a custom quote based on your drive model and symptoms, and keep an eye out for less than genuine recovery shops.

I hope you have found this information helpful! Thanks for reading!